Teaching is hard!
Had I been more prepared I would have felt more comfortable. My first instinct was to grab the text book (the wealth of knowledge), and find an assignment that they were working on. I found myself making students do what we've always done for the last 150 years - regurgitate knowledge. Which is completely against the way I taught and how I think. Preparation is much more than following along in the text, the activities cause a disconnect with the students.
Relevancy and Engagement
Here I was trying to relate the importance of Morse code to students that really were not interested.
I thought to myself as I looked through the lesson plan about how hard it is to remain relevant with kids. Why do these students care about the North's economy from 1830 - 1860? I thought to myself as I read the section. The better question, how could I have made this relevant to them? If I am relevant to students then they will be engaged. Using only the textbooks and the activities included in the text will not create relevancy and engagement only compliance.
We have to get away from the idea that content is king, and think about engagement. How can I make something that occurred 200 years ago relevant to them? Should I even cover this, is it important? Should all students know and be able to do this concept? This has caused me to think, and thanks for the impromptu experience, it has reminded me that teaching is the hardest profession in the world.
I am reminded that I need to get out of the office and put myself into classrooms even as superintendent. A good friend of mine once said after I moved into the principalship, "don't forget about what it is like to be a teacher." This rings true today.